New Agamben translation (and annoying ploys to sell books)


I noticed the other week that Stanford UP is publishing a translation of some of Giorgio Agamben’s essays, entitled Nudities, next month. Here’s the blurb:

Encompassing a wide range of subjects, the ten masterful essays gathered here may at first appear unrelated to one another. In truth, Giorgio Agamben’s latest book is a mosaic of his most pressing concerns. Take a step backward after reading it from cover to cover, and a world of secret affinities between the chapters slowly comes into focus. Take another step back, and it becomes another indispensable piece of the finely nuanced philosophy that Agamben has been patiently constructing over four decades of sustained research.

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but this seems like a mere ploy to sell books, and frankly, it’s annoying.  That is to say, I think the text in bold needs to be translated: “The essays are admittedly loosely related non-sequiters, in fact, the only connection is that they are written by the same personThat said, suckers like Ozeri and Emelianov will purchase the book, nonetheless due to the cult of personality, or popularity of Agamben.  Readers will have to make all the connections on their own, we basically threw together these essays.”

Maybe that’s too harsh, but really, what’s wrong with saying we liked these essays and we’re publishing them all together?  Read the rest of the blurb here

4 thoughts on “New Agamben translation (and annoying ploys to sell books)

  1. This is easily corrected:

    Take a step backward after reading it from cover to cover, and a world of secret affinities between the chapters slowly comes into focus. Take another step back, and it becomes another indispensable piece of the finely nuanced philosophy that Agamben has been patiently constructing over four decades of sustained research.

    Just add:

    Take yet another step back and realize that Agamben has wasted four decade of his research if this is all he could come up with.

    Or:

    One more step back, closer to the window – open it, take another look at the book and jump out, because after you have read this book, you’ve learned everything there is to know, there is no reason to live any longer!

  2. It is a really silly blurb, but doesn’t this blurb more accurately describe Agamben’s own strategy for writing than it does the reader’s strategy for reading?

    “Here is a bunch of obscure stuff from the middle ages that no one has ever heard of, take a step backwards and they become the secret decoder ring for reading Heidegger, take another step backwards will magically decipher this mornings newspaper.”

    This is too mean of me, but there is an element of truth to it.

    I didn’t realize this was a book of essays, I thought it was one single long essay on nudity. I am actually VERY interested in Agamben on nudity (as an extension of my interest in Levinas on nudity/shame) so I’ve been anticipating this translation for a while. Too bad that there is probably just going to be one short essay on it in the book.

    • I find it even more annoying that publishers inevitably include something like “and please show us how we can market and sell your book” in their book proposal guidelines. I mean I understand how it works, but it encourages folks to think in terms of “selling points” and they all rush to create some new exciting philosophy with cool names (like Harman’s invention of “object-oriented philosophy” or Bryant’s silly “onticology”) to help with the sales, hoping to become the next Zizek…

  3. Just happened to come across this. I do not have an issue with your criticism of marketing ploys, but I think the above quoted blurb happens to be the case so to speak. Agamben does write in a way that reading him again is actually meaningful. In addition the collection of the essays Nudita is actually worth reading. Notice also how Agamben has never participated in the coolness-selling and the circus of the so-called intellectual leftists. Not that Agamben needs defending or anything, but it worth considering whether one could perhaps, instead, read. A friendly suggestion.

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